27th October, 2011

Why Style Guides Are Important

“I thought ‘organisation’ was spelt with a ‘z’.”

“Why have you changed ‘%’ to ‘per cent’?”

“One or two spaces after a full stop?”

We get these questions all the time. In fact, among ourselves, we ask these questions all the time. I guess the more important question is: “Why does it matter?” It’s not that we enjoy being bossy and pernickety (well, not much); there are good reasons to stick to a consistent style.

When it comes to writing for public consumption – particularly corporate writing – it’s important to establish a consistent and strong organisational voice to give credibility to your image. No matter how powerful your writing is, if it’s littered with inconsistent spelling and punctuation, it can seriously cramp your style and undermine your professionalism.

So who made up the rules? Not us. All major publishing bodies across most industrial sectors have their own house style guides that are (mostly) religiously followed. The Economist Style Guide is a well-known example, and is widely used across the United Kingdom, as is The Guardian Style Guide. Style guides are used on a national level as well, such as the Associated Press Stylebook for the American press, or its cousin, the Canadian Press Stylebook. Even the European Union has an Interinstitutional Style Guide for 23 languages, which is used for all EU documents.

So which one does Giles Publications follow? Where a client has a corporate style guide, we follow that. Otherwise, we use the Economist Style Guide for our locally-based clients and the AP Stylebook for our American clients.

The truth is the particular style choice doesn’t matter as long as we’re all on the same page – so to speak. As always, consistency is key.

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